Embrace the present with these upgrades and upgradable goodies.
By Crispin Boyer
LED ES8000 HDTV
Samsung • $3,750
This monolithic 55-incher might cost more than a used Hyundai, but it will retain its value better. Unlike most boob tubes that become obsolete after a few years, this one can be upgraded much like a PC. Kits available next year will swap in new CPUs, graphics processors, and expanded RAM. Gesture- and voice-recognition controls allow you to navigate the channels if you lose the remote, while Samsung’s integrated Smart Hub offers access to hundreds of media-enriching apps. The display delivers full 1080p resolution in both 2-D and 3-D, plus its minimalist metallic design looks sharp even when switched off.
Galileo robotic camera platform
Motrr • $130
A success story from the entrepreneur-funding site Kickstarter.com, the Galileo is a motorized mount that turns your iPhone or iPod touch into a remote-control camera system capable of 360-degree viewing. Just plug your iOS device into the mount, initiate a video call, then pan and tilt the Galileo from another iPhone, an iPad, or a web browser. Although it’s only the size of a bar of soap, the Galileo packs powerful servos that deliver ultraresponsive panning and tilting—up to 200 degrees of motion per second. Throw in an intuitive interface and a rechargeable battery for outlet-free operation, and it’s no wonder the Galileo hit its fund-raising goal of $100,000 in just a few days.
PS 210 BTNC noise-canceling headphones
Phiaton • $159
The latest Bluetooth and noise-canceling technologies collide in this svelte pair of headphones, perfect for the gym, subway, airplane—anywhere that silence is golden. The audio processor blocks up to 95 percent of background noise from drowning out your music (and phone calls via the built-in microphone). Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity offers greater sound clarity and lower power consumption, but you can still plug them in the old-fashioned way if they start to run out of juice (you’ll get 11 hours of noise-cancellation on a full charge). The comfy half-in-ear design of the cups cuts down on ear fatigue, too.
Rukus solar-powered radio
Etón • $149
Make the most of those fading summer rays with this solar-powered speaker dock. The monocrystal solar panel soaks up a full charge in about six hours, and it will power your smartphone or tablet via USB continuously as long as the sun is shining (you can switch to an AC adapter indoors). The 14-watt stereo speakers won’t exactly rock the block, but they provide decent sound for the campsite or worksite. Bluetooth connectivity cuts down on cabling (although you can use a wired connection if you prefer), and a kangaroo pouch keeps your media player snug but handy for tune control.
D-Link • $70
An unsung gadget that puts function over form, D-Link’s ugly little SharePort creates a media-rich Wi-Fi network wherever you are. First, stick the mouse-size device into a power outlet using its builtin plug, then connect your media-crammed USB thumb drive or portable hard drive. The SharePort immediately begins sharing your movies, music, photos, and other files to any laptop, smart phone, or tablet in range that’s running the free D-Link app. Jack it into any wired networks—at home, in hotels, or in boardrooms—with an Ether net cable to create an instant Wi-Fi hot spot. The SharePort even charges your mobile device, making it a handy addition to the junk pocket of your overnight bag.
Vizio • $950
Not content with cornering the budget-TV market, scrappy electronics maker Vizio is storming the PC biz with a line of laptops (and an all-in-one desktop) that delivers highfalutin features and form factors for down-to-earth prices. The 15.6-inch Thin+Light is the best value, considering its stats. It packs a third-generation iCore processor, a bloatware-free operating system that boots up in seconds, ultrasharp 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, and battery life that tops six hours. Even more surprising is the sexy design. The ultrathin aluminum shell and thinly framed display invoke obvious comparisons to the thrice-the-price MacBook, so expect snooty glares from Apple snobs when you tote this little number to the coffee shop.
NSZ-GS7 media player
Sony • $200
It’s not the cheapest way to add “smart” internet-connected functions to your dumb older TV, but this Google TV–powered set-top box is the most app-rich and easiest to use. Its secret weapon is its smartphone-inspired remote, which features a trackpad and a full QWERTY keyboard that glows when you dim the lights. Use the remote to browse the internet while simultaneously watching TV in a smaller window. Type in the names of any shows, movies, or sporting events you’d like to watch, and the media player will put together a playlist from all available sources, from live TV to YouTube to Netflix.